Evidence of the growing partnership between Central Michigan University and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe was put on display before Saturday’s homecoming football game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Members of the tribe performed a traditional drum circle, blessing the team before they headed into action against Northern Illinois.
Aaron Chivis is a member of the Grand Traverse Chippewa Indian tribe and was one of the six Native Americans who performed the honor song before the game.
“It’s a great opportunity personally and culturally for me,” Chivis said. “It supports CMU athletics while paying tribute to our people. It is a great gesture.”
This year, the CMU Alumni Association named the tribe as grand marshal for the highly anticipated homecoming ceremonies.
Executive Director of Alumni Relations Marice Ottemen said it is an honor for CMU to be known as the Chippewas.
“It’s important that we remember where the name comes from,” Ottemen said. “We’ve been the CMU Chippewas since 1942. When you think about what’s happened over the decades, it’s very important to celebrate the history and culture the tribe brings to the university, the Mount Pleasant community and the entire Central Michigan region.”
As a token of appreciation for the usage of the Chippewa name, CMU has paid tribute to the tribe with academic initiatives and has been involved with tribal ceremonies like the annual Pow Wow ceremony in March.
“We’d like for CMU to be the university of choice for Native Americans in the Midwest,” SCIT Public Relations Director Frank Cloutier said in a news release. “CMU has shown they’re not only capable of it, but they’re deserving of it.”
To help CMU’s recruiting efforts, the SCIT has signed an articulation agreement that allows for easy transfer of credits from smaller tribal colleges and learning institutions to CMU.
In addition, Park Library and various computer labs and other campus resources are available to tribal college students for free.
Before the drum ceremony, members of the tribe rode on the Alumni Association float during the annual Homecoming Parade through Downtown Mount Pleasant in another symbol of acceptance.
“We are always trying to diversify and educate our campus,” Ottemen said. “(Native Chippewa Indians) have a lot to offer this campus. It is important that we understand and appreciate what they can contribute to our community as a people.”